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Korea: More firms pressure staff to stop smoking

2012-04-17

Cigarette smokers penalized as anti-smoking efforts intensify across all industries

A number of companies are going beyond the usual anti-smoking campaign to put smokers at a disadvantage for promotions or perks.

Samsung Electronics Co. recently joined in taking this strong-handed approach, signaling similar moves in other large firms.

The electronics giant sent out an e-mail to its 35,000 employees in the device solution division on Friday, warning that smoking will be detrimental to their chances for promotions to the executive-level, dispatch to overseas branches or selection as overseas regional experts.

A non-smoker will be chosen over a smoker with similar evaluation scores for promotion, which means it will be nearly impossible for smokers to become executives, a Samsung official said.

The company also plans to get all employees of the DS division to make vows to quit smoking and run nicotine tests every month on team managers who smoke.

“We are linking smoking with personnel affairs to improve employees’ health and create a safe and pleasant work environment while keeping in pace with the global anti-smoking trend,” the company official said.

The move to penalize smokers was led by vice chairman Kwon Oh-hyun, chief of the DS division, or the parts division, which handles the semiconductor and light emitting diode businesses, and is expected to spread across the entire company as the finished products division is also tightening anti-smoking measures.

The finished products division designated its Suwon complex a non-smoking zone last year. Because employees have to walk more than 200 meters from their office buildings to exit the complex to light up, many of them quit.

Early last month, Woongjin Group eliminated about a fifth of its candidates for promotions because they smoke.

It was the first time Woongjin deferred the promotion of smokers, although it had given various incentives for those who kick the habit.

The smokers who failed to advance to higher positions will be reexamined in September. If the nicotine levels from their hair tests do not exceed 5.0 ng/mg, they will be classified as non-smokers and thus be promoted.

“To protect their privacy, we are not disclosing the list of people whose promotion has been put off, but we gave individual notices to motivate them to quit smoking,” a Woongjin Holdings official said.

“From next year, there will be no six-month grace period. Smokers will be excluded from the screening for promotions.”

In January, Hyundai Oilbank Co. announced all of its work sites as non-smoking areas and had its entire staff pledge to stop smoking.

Those caught taking a smoke will be subject to disadvantages in promotions and getting the chance to work in overseas offices, the refiner said.

The company provides all expenses for anti-smoking aids and participation in anti-smoking programs run by healthcare centers.

It also introduced a non-smoking fund, in which an employee deposits 500,000 won and if he succeeds in giving up smoking, the company offers the same amount to congratulate him. If he fails, his deposit goes to charity.

Lotte Department Store Co. has warned smokers to bear with difficulties in climbing up the corporate ladder since 2010.

E-Land Group even made it rule to hire only non-smokers or people who promise to give up smoking, in addition to restricting promotion for smokers.

POSCO and Kumho Asiana Group were among the first to establish smoke-free work environments.

The steelmaker said its smoking rate which had hovered around 30 percent in 2008 is now close to zero thanks to rigorous anti-smoking efforts.

Kumho Asiana Group started its anti-smoking campaign in 1986 by banning smoking at all work sites, express buses and airplanes, and even prohibited in-flight sales of duty-free cigarettes.

Dozens of companies including LG Electronics, GS Engineering and Construction, Samsung Heavy Industries, CJ CheilJedang and Bokwang Family Mart have reduced the number of smokers by running non-smoking funds.

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